The coronavirus is transforming the US casino industry. There’s a long way to go until the pandemic is over, so casinos have time to figure out what to do once they can reopen their doors.
Casinos have many potential solutions to consider, as they develop ways for people to play safely: screening people for symptoms of the virus upon entry; fixing protective screens on the tables and slots to prevent workers and players from the virus; even prohibiting people from entering without a mask.
In fact, one Las Vegas casino plans to provide sticks to players to use on the slots, enabling people to play without directly touching buttons.
These are just some examples of possible safety measures casinos have mulled over.
Jim Allen, President of Hard Rock Casino and Hotel, is keen to make both player and employee safety the top priority once it’s time to reopen.
“It’s important to focus on safety; it truly is,” says Allen, while also making it clear that COVID-19 is going to have a greater impact on the economy than most people expect.
“Every employee and guest should be wearing a mask, ” continues Allen when asked how casinos can move forward. He goes on to explain that the Hard Rock may make guests stay between 10 and 15 feet away from each other.
While masks are commonly used by the general public, from a casino’s perspective, they cause quite the conundrum.
For example, casino surveillance may have trouble identifying those that have been banned by the government from entering the casino. Casinos may also have difficulty identifying people who have self-excluded from the casinos to overcome a previous gambling problem.
In the case of penny slots, jackpots, and other slots, what will casinos do about couples on vacation or newlyweds on their honeymoon who wish to sit beside each other?
And what about the chips? Will they be cleaned after each round of betting? The same goes for money at the cashier.
Casino executives in Las Vegas and Atlantic City have acknowledged these issues and more. They also note that state officials could make additional rulings that will impact their plans before they reopen.
In New Jersey, the Division of Gaming Enforcement must give the all-clear before any of the state’s casinos can reopen for business. As noted by the New York Times, to date, they have “engaged with the casino industry to develop plans for the safe reopening of Atlantic City’s retail casino operations when authorized by the governor.”
The Not-So-Grand Reopening
While the procedures that must take place once the casinos reopen have been discussed, the dates on which they might open their doors are anyone’s guess.
In his latest state plan, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey offered no insight as to when the state’s casinos can reopen.
Wynn Resorts, one of the best hotels in Vegas and Massachusetts, put forward May 15 as a possible reopening date, only to move it back to Memorial Day weekend.
Guests would be scanned for their temperature upon arrival, and anyone who recorded over 100.4 degrees would be turned away and referred to medical care.
At check-in, every guest would receive a bag containing hand sanitizer, guides on how to touch elevator buttons, and further information about COVID-19. Rooms will stock disinfectant and towels for cleaning.
On the casino floor, every other slot machine would be unavailable for use to create necessary space between players. Table games would allow a maximum of three players per game.
Las Vegas Sands is using plexiglass barriers to protect employees at the front desk and they are hiring deep-cleaning companies to ensure cleanliness and bacteria and virus abatement. In addition, Sands has already donated 2 million protective masks to first responders and is now starting to supply their own staff and guests.
Matt Maddox, CEO of the Wynn, wrote in the Nevada Independent about how his company is losing $3 million a day while shut down.
He wrote, “Our economy is in a free-fall. Nevada will likely be one of the hardest-hit states in the nation and suffer very high unemployment. The only way to cross this river is one stone at a time, and we need to put our feet in the water before it is too late.”
Interestingly, Macau, the gambling capital of the world, has reopened its casinos to the public having taken many of US-suggested safety measures on board. That said, players haven’t flocked back to the tables as much as the casinos would have hoped.
What The UK Is Doing
Our cousins across the pond are also feeling the effects of COVID-19. The UK government is poised to present its review in the next week or so of how long the lockdown may remain in place. As such, players will have to continue to wait to start winning at slots again, but it’s unlikely the restrictions will be lifted anytime soon.
On the other hand, the online casino industry is booming. Online casinos are experiencing high numbers of players that haven’t been seen in a very long time.
In fact, with professional sports also postponed, more people are turning towards playing online slots than ever before, so much so that 888 Holdings reported that their stock increased by 38% the day after the UK announced its nationwide lockdown. This will have come as a nice boost for the company that, along with most others in the casino industry, will have experienced huge declines in revenue.
Further, social gaming is expected to become even more popular over the coming months with its live-play element. Live casino games allow players to interact with a real dealer and other players in real-time. This has great potential for giving players more social opportunities while they must stay inside.
That said, the current success of live casinos depends on how long the studios stay open. Evolution Gaming is just one example of an operator that has been forced to shut down their own live casino studios to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.